WORK IN PROGRESS:
HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
BENEFITS AND DRAWBACKS IN PROVIDING AFFORDABLE HOUSING ON THE PRIVATE MARKET: THE CASE OF SAN DIEGO’S SINGLE-ROOM OCCUPANCY HOTELS
Beginning in the mid-to-late 1800s, property owners and developers in major U.S. cities recognized that small, efficiency-sized units could be rented for cheap to impoverished and working-class urbanites. Some of these tenements, working-man hotels, and flop houses bred disease and disorder, but others functioned as designed: they provided simple, safe, and clean accommodations to people of limited means. Unlike many other U.S. cities, developers and politicians in the City of San Diego intentionally chose to preserve some of the city’s single-room occupancy hotels (SROs), and even elected to build more. This makes San Diego one of the few cities in the nation where SROs house a sizable population of low-income tenants, at least 5,000 people in the downtown area alone.
The San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) has made efforts over the past several decades to regulate SROs in an attempt to preserve them in the face of redevelopment pressures. In this study, we draw on survey, interview, and geo-spatial data to describe the benefits and drawbacks in retaining this housing stock. We argue for the value of low-income housing retention in downtown specifically, citing evidence that residents benefit from living in high-opportunity areas of the city, even when they are not completely satisfied with their accommodations. We also argue that the SDHC’s attempts to preserve SRO units have been somewhat unsuccessful: the number of SRO units in San Diego declined by 25 percent between 1976 and 2020. This contrasts with SDHC records that suggest a 6 percent decline in units over the same period. A preliminary research report can be found here. A policy brief on low-income, SRO renters can be found here. And a policy brief on the proposed SRO ordinance can be found here.
Project funded by the University of San Diego Urgent Challenges Collective.
HOW REGIONAL TRANSIT AGENCIES CAN SERVE THE DAILY MOBILITY NEEDS OF THE UNHOUSED POPULATION
Current planning frameworks typically assume people have stable housing with fixed addresses. This excludes the perspective of unhoused Californians, a critical oversight given this population's prevalence in the state. Research on the mobility of unhoused persons suggests it is possible to incorporate their needs into regional planning, despite population heterogeneity, because they are less transient than is often assumed and tend to have established patterns and needs for daily movement between shelter, services, work, and social connections. We propose a research synthesis that compares empirical research on the mobility and transit needs of people experiencing homelessness and regional transit plans in California. Specifically, we will review transit plans in four California regions to assess whether they plan explicitly for homeless transit users. A preliminary review of regional transportation plans suggests that most do not incorporate this population’s needs. We see this as an opportunity to fill a knowledge gap regarding how unhoused people move about regionally and how transit agencies may better meet their needs. We will author a report, policy brief, and will share our findings, as well as geo-spatial visualization tools of mobility, walkability, and homeless encampment locations, with San Diego regional transportation planners and service providers,
Project funded by University of California Institute for Transportation Studies.
ESTIMATING AND PREVENTING EVICTIONS IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY
“Residential evictions” is a broad term which means that an individual or family is being asked to leave their home against their wishes. The scale of evictions in the United States is unknown, because only a fraction are processed through official channels, which can include superior courts and, if a tenant is unwilling to vacate a premise, the local sheriffs. Research suggests that residential evictions, or the threat of an eviction, are frequent for lower-income tenants in the United States, especially if those tenants are African American or live in neighborhoods with larger shares of African American residents and/or higher poverty rates.
Displacement through eviction is driven by the increasing cost of housing relative to income, racial and ethnic discrimination, unequal power dynamics between landlords and tenants, and a lack of renter protection policies. Eviction can also exacerbate already existing inequities in housing and poverty. During the Covid-19 pandemic, eviction rates have declined due to federal, state, and local eviction moratoria, but are increasing as protections expire.
Measuring the scale of informal and formal evictions in California counties and municipalities is a challenge. Renters in California are afforded numerous privacy protections relating to eviction court records, making accurate estimates difficult. These protections are necessary to protect tenants, but create limitations for a granular analysis of evictions by neighborhood. As a result, state and regional estimates of evictions are undercounts.
My approach to studying evictions in San Diego County is to partner with local organizations and use mixed-methods and varied data sources in order to understand the scope of the problem and the particulars of what leads to eviction, as well as what could prevent eviction. With the UCSD Homelessness-Hub, I am engaged in five projects:
1) Geo-spatial mapping and analyses of aggregate counts of unlawful detainer judgements against tenants by month and zip code, for 2018 through 2021 (data acquired through public records request to the San Diego Superior Court).
2) Geo-spatial mapping and analyses of address data from San Diego Sheriff lockouts, which occur after a formal eviction when a tenant refuses to leave a residence.
3) Geo-spatial mapping and analyses of 2-1-1 San Diego calls for rental and utility assistance, and eviction assistance.
4) Qualitative study of eviction prevention workshops for tenants, in collaboration with the Eviction Prevention Collaborative.
5) Quantitative and qualitative study of eviction court proceedings, in collaboration with the Legal Aid Society of San Diego.
Policy briefs and research write-ups will be posted here as they are completed.
WORK IN PROGRESS:
BOOK MANUSCRIPT: WHO PAYS FOR HIGHER EDUCATION? THE POLITICS OF SHIFTING COLLEGE COSTS FROM THE STATE TO STUDENTS
I am currently focused on my book manuscript, Who Pays for Higher Education? The Politics of Shifting College Costs from the State to Students. Since the 1970s, the share of public university budgets funded by state governments has fallen while student costs have risen. No one—not students, families, policymakers, or university leadership—seems to have wanted costs to shift as much as they have. What explains the cost shift? I find that costs have not shifted at the nation’s public universities because universities are uncommonly greedy or lawmakers have given up on the mission of public higher education. I show that they have shifted because state politicians and higher education leaders built expensive public universities which taxpayers have no structural obligation to fund.
I trace the origins of the policy frameworks that enabled rapid growth for systems of autonomous, public universities. Policy frameworks are the government rules that guided the founding, development, and financing of public higher education systems. While these frameworks allowed autonomous public universities to compete in a national marketplace for faculty and students, they also left public universities vulnerable to funding cuts by providing no guarantee for legislative appropriations during economic downturns. As funding grew scarce, politicians supported public universities as they turned to tuition revenues to replace diminished state support. I show how and why state actors constructed the policy frameworks they did, and why those frameworks have prompted defunding by state lawmakers and greater reliance on tuition dollars. I fit this story into the larger stories of policy change, institutional isomorphism, and state retrenchment in American political development.
ENUMERATING AND FINANCING EQUITY: HOW STATE CAPACITY INFLUENCED MINORITY DIVERSIFICATION EFFORTS IN CALIFORNIA AND TEXAS, 1970-2000
California lawmakers and university leaders built an equity regime, or system of policies and programs that attacked the problem of disproportionately low enrollments among Black and Hispanic students, beginning in the early 1960s. This regime began before major federal intervention in the diversification of higher education, but became systematic and transparent when the federal government began requiring equity accounting, or systematic tracking of student enrollments by race and ethnicity in order to quantify enrollment disproportionality by university and college. In Texas and other southern states, federal intervention facilitated the creation of equity regimes by requiring equity accounting as a first step. In this paper, I use these two cases to show the contradictory ways that federal action impacted equity efforts in two dissimilar policy climates. Lawmakers and university leaders built equity regimes on distinctive timelines given an early commitment to equitable minority enrollments in California and a resistance to desegregation in Texas. Due to federal involvement, both states ultimately produced similar equity regimes. However, these regimes were threatened as soon as they were created due to the instability of state appropriations to public higher education and, especially, programs aimed at reducing disproportionality. Thus, as education and legislative leaders advocated for numerical equity, they did so amidst state retrenchment for financing public higher education.